Satisfy Your Appetite for Atmosphere
Now that summer’s soaring temperatures are finally behind us, we celebrate the arrival of fall with a toast to area restaurants that overflow with that special vibe known as atmosphere. It’s an ingredient critical to any great dining experience. Fall is the perfect time to step outside to savor the sights and sounds of Tampa Bay by dining alfresco, whether overlooking the water, in a courtyard garden or at a sidewalk café. Here are a few favorite restaurants that serve up plenty of atmosphere, both indoors and out.
THE COLUMBIA RESTAURANT
GREATER TAMPA BAY—Since 1905, the Columbia Restaurant has been a Tampa Bay icon showcasing the area’s colorful past as a thriving center for Cuban culture and commerce. The restaurant has remained in the family all this time, but it has blossomed from its original Ybor City location to six additional destinations—St. Petersburg, Clearwater Beach, Sarasota, St. Augustine, Celebration and the newest location—downtown Tampa inside the Tampa Bay History Center. You’ll find mouthwatering, authentic Spanish food at The Columbia, starting with the famed 1905 Salad and inspired entrees including Paella “A la Valencia,” Snapper Alicante, Pollo Riojana, La Completa Cubana and more, along with a full tapas menu and fabulous desserts. Experience the rhythm and heat of the Flamenco dance with the Columbia Restaurant Dance Troupe, which performs nightly at the restaurant’s Ybor City location.www.ColumbiaRestaurant.com
FLY BAR & RESTAURANT
TAMPA—This lively destination on Franklin Street is hot, hot, hot with the locals and should receive credit for almost single-handedly kick-starting downtown Tampa after dark. Fly is packed with people of all ages who love the urban energy, great selection of micro-brews and imports, signature cocktails and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. Original paintings by local artist Sean Spoto decorate the interior walls, while the rooftop deck offers an amazing view of downtown’s city scene and the Hillsborough River waterfront. It’s the place to go for happy hour after a long day at work.www.FlyBarAndRestaurant.com
GRILLE ONE SIXTEEN
TAMPA—Anchoring a shopping center in Carrollwood, the white, nondescript exterior of Grille One Sixteen successfully disguises the chic treat hidden inside. Upon stepping through the entry, you’ll discover a sleek, stylish, cosmopolitan ambience reminiscent of South Beach, complete with leather booths, billowy white curtains and a lounge in the center of the room. The restaurant is noted for its outstanding organic, dry-aged steaks cooked on a wood-fired grill. Pan-seared sea scallops and Pan Asian grouper are also favorites. For lighter fare, select a few dishes to share from the “Lounge” menu like the grilled Kobe beef or blackened grouper sliders. Be sure to leave room for dessert. Try the decadent doughnuts—four homemade cakes topped with chocolate, caramel and raspberry sauces.www.GrilleOneSixteen.com
GULFPORT—This authentic Brazilian experience is quite a surprising find in low-key, artsy Gulfport. The fabulous contemporary décor and mouth-watering prime meats served traditional South American churrascaria style—brought to your table on long skewers—truly satisfies the appetite for a cultural dining experience. The soup and salad bar has a strong Asian influence and is equally sumptuous. But there’s more. After dinner, stroll over to Bellini’s, La Fogata’s upscale lounge that offers a sexy, modern interior and a romantic outdoor patio, complete with waterfall. Lean back and look at the stars while sipping a Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. It’s a great alternative to the Mojito.